COVID-19 FAQ: transition to remote learning
This page is meant to answer questions about coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and Bennington College’s plan to transition to remote learning.
Last update: 10:30 am on Thursday, March 26, 2020.
What is the operating status of the College?
The College is open and classes will be shifting to remote teaching and learning. Students who can return home have been asked to do so. Though the format may change, the integrity of the education and student progress toward degrees will continue uninterrupted.
What is the timeline?
- Friday, March 13, 6:00 pm: End of in-person classes and advising.
- Sunday, March 15, 2:00 pm: Deadline to complete this form for students for whom leaving campus will be a significant hardship or an impossibility. The form can be used to identify the need for an extension to leave, or to request housing for the remainder of the spring term.
- Monday, March 16 and Tuesday, March 17: Focused advising days. Advising, a central and distinctive part of a Bennington education, will take place remotely after in-person teaching ends on Friday, March 13. Advisors will contact advisees to plan for the shift to on-line instruction and to make plans for how they will work together remotely for advising for the rest of term (mode of contact, frequency of meetings), as well as to review classes in progress and objectives for the remainder of the term.
- Wednesday, March 18 - Sunday, March 22: Long Weekend. Note that this is shifted from the scheduled dates of Long Weekend as posted on the Academic Calendar.
- Saturday, March 21, 4:00 pm: Deadline for students not approved to remain on campus to depart College housing. Information will be sent to all students and families from the Office of Student Life with detailed information regarding the move-out process, which will follow the process we use at the end of term time, including support for on-campus storage and transportation to Albany airport and Albany-Rensselaer train station at no cost.
- Monday, March 23 - Friday, March 27: Preparation Week. Faculty will use this time to continue to revisit course learning objectives and course materials, adjust syllabi, and test the tools they will use in the remote delivery of their courses, as well as to check in with advisees. Students will prepare to shift to remote learning by familiarizing themselves with the tools needed for remote instruction, testing the equipment they will use, catching up on work, following any steps provided by their course instructors, and reviewing the FAQ that we are updating often to address the many questions we know you will have. Students with Plans due this term will also use this time to continue working on their Plan essays, which are due Thursday, March 26.
- Monday, March 30: Spring term resumes with remote instruction. The Curriculum Planning Committee has prepared important guidance for faculty and the Provost and Dean’s Office and IT will provide support and resources throughout the remainder of the term.
- Friday April 10. End of First half of term (end of first seven-week courses)
- Monday April 13. Beginning of second half of term (start of second seven-week courses).
- Thursday, May 28, Noon - Spring Term Ends (no change from published academic calendar)
What can students do in this moment to prepare?
- Talk to your family, if you have not, and make travel plans.
- If there are barriers to your ability to leave campus and you have not already done so, please let us know by 2:00 pm March 15. We will work with you around those barriers - which includes allowing students who cannot leave to remain in campus housing.
- Review the move-out procedures sent out on March 13, which also includes information about on-campus storage and transportation to Albany airport and Albany-Rensselaer train station at no cost.
- Consider what tools you will need to participate in remote learning classes. If you haven’t already done so, complete the technology survey to help us understand your technology needs. Additionally, Bennington IT has developed a technology planning support document that includes a section for students.
- Faculty and students can attend a drop-in training session on the basic use of zoom web conferences on Saturday, March 16 between 10:00 am to 1:00 pm in Commons SCoPE Forum.
- Speak with your advisor on one of the focused advising days (March 16 or March 17)
- Continue to use the preventative guidelines that have been provided in all of our communications about hand & respiratory hygiene, social distancing and staying home when not feeling well.
- Review this FAQ and continue to check back for updates/new information
Will Commencement happen as planned?
While we are taking steps to prevent or delay the spread of COVID-19, we are looking at events large and small on a case by case basis. We expect to know more in the coming weeks about the plan for Commencement.
PDF Version and Translations
Click here for a PDF version of the General Questions FAQs. Thanks to student translators, French and Spanish versions are also available.
What does “remote teaching and learning” mean?
Remote teaching simply means that the faculty and the students are in different locations. The range of approaches that faculty may adopt to teach in this manner is enormous: one extreme is a synchronous discussions hosted on a video platform, such as Zoom or Google Hangouts, and the other can be a model that amounts to a correspondence model such as that employed by our low residency MFA in writing program. Approaches between these models could include recorded lectures, on-line discussion groups, etc. Faculty will determine what specific structure will work best to achieve the learning goals of their courses and will strive to maintain as much of their own pedagogical methods as possible. They will also be clear about what structures they will employ and how students will engage in their courses.
What do I do if I don’t have the necessary computer hardware to participate in remote courses or do not have access to broadband internet access?
The College is committed to ensuring that students have access to remote learning and we will work with students individually to address obstacles to their access to computer hardware and/or internet.
How do I put Academic Accommodations for Remote Learning in Place?
Students who are currently receiving academic accommodations are encouraged to contact Katy Evans to explore potential new academic accommodations as we shift to remote teaching and learning.
I opted to receive letter grades for my courses; can I elect to take my classes pass/fail instead?
Yes. Because faculty will be shifting their content, approach, and certain learning outcomes, we are allowing students who opted for letter grades to take some or all of their classes pass/fail instead. If you would like to do so, please complete this form by April 15.
Will faculty and staff “meet” remotely with students who remain on campus?
Yes. Social distancing has been demonstrably effective in minimizing the spread of viruses, and reducing the number of people meeting in our small spaces throughout campus will assist in our efforts to reduce the spread of viruses and the impact on our community and regional healthcare systems. Given this, we ask that students, staff, and faculty meet remotely via phone, skype, or google hangouts.
My instructor has informed the class that we will meet in real time via video conferencing, but I will be in a different time zone. Is it possible for the class to meet at a more convenient time?
Because the College will have students in many different time zones, it will not be possible to have remote meetings at times that are mutually convenient. In addition, straying from regularly scheduled course time for real-time instruction will create untenable scheduling conflicts. For these reasons, courses meeting in real-time will do so according to the current weekly schedule using Eastern Daylight Time. Of course, some courses might not meet in real time and, in those cases, engaging with the remote environment can occur at other times.
Will the College’s transition to remote teaching and learning affect my Visa if I go home?
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), which oversees the SEVIS database, has allowed colleges and universities to adapt their procedures to address the significant public health concerns associated with COVID-19, including moving instruction online.. Please direct any additional Visa questions to Kate Child.
I am in my 8th term. Will I be able to graduate on time?
Yes. You are still enrolled in your courses. As long as you are enrolled and successfully pass your courses, complete your Senior Essay, and earn the credits you need to complete this term, your graduation date will not change.
How do I access Peer Tutors remotely?
Peer Tutoring for writing and languages will offer online tutoring sessions. When signing up for a tutoring appointment, you'll be given the option for face-to-face or online session. Select online session, log on, and click on your appointment five minutes before your scheduled time and a window will pop up providing audio/video, a whiteboard, and a chat log.
Will Plan meetings take place on Plan Days?
Yes, we will be sending information to students and faculty regarding the electronic submission of Plan Essays and are making plans for meetings to take place remotely on the designated Plan Days: April 22, April 29 (½ day), and May 5.
Will we have an extension on the Plan Essay due date?
No, we must maintain the March 26 due date to adequately prepare schedules for the designated Plan Days. Students should work remotely with their advisors on their Plan Essays.
What about 3- and 7-week courses?
This change will necessitate the shifting of the start and end dates for certain 3- and 7-week classes. We will post revised dates on the academic calendar, and will communicate directly with students and faculty who are impacted by this change. Revised dates for certain 3-week courses will also be posted in the spring curriculum.
How can I add/drop/withdraw from classes, request transcripts, or do other paperwork I might have done in the Dean’s Office?
How will studio, performance, or laboratory instruction proceed remotely?
Faculty teaching courses that include components that are less readily adapted to remote delivery, such as studio art, performance, and laboratory science courses, are actively grappling with the problem of how students can achieve their course objectives in a remote teaching environment. Insofar as it is possible, faculty will use remote means to achieve the learning objectives specified in the course syllabus. For example, there are many “dry labs” and computer simulation exercises in science in which students can actively engage with the material without physically being in the lab. In some cases, however, it may be necessary to modify the course objectives in light of the limitations remote learning imposes. In those cases faculty will modify the work with the goal of providing students pathways to maintaining progress in the field. This will ensure the students have the opportunity to earn the total number of credits they are currently enrolled for. For example, work in courses with large studio components could include more historical, theoretical, or other contexts that can be just as useful in the development of student work.
I'm staying on campus and want to use a studio or lab space. Is that possible? [update]
Unfortunately, no. These spaces will not be monitored so safety concerns will make student access to these spaces impossible. In addition, requests to use College equipment will not be approved for equity reasons: we do not want to put students who leave campus as requested to be excluded from their use.
Financial Aid and Student Employment Questions
Will I receive a partial refund for room and board for the remainder of the term?
Yes. Students will be entitled to a credit on their account for the unused portion of the room and board fees (allocable to the paid family contribution) for the spring term. If there is balance due on the account the credit will be applied first to the amount due. Graduating seniors will be eligible for a refund if the credit creates a balance due to the student. Continuing students will be receiving the credit towards their next academic term. Institutionally-funded financial aid will not be refunded to students.
If the College transitions to remote teaching and learning will my Pell Grant be affected?
No. The College has transitioned to remote teaching and learning, and you are enrolled in your courses. As long as you are enrolled and working towards your degree, Pell and SEOG funding will not be impacted.
How will switching to remote teaching and learning impact my campus employment?
Many of our students use their campus jobs to support themselves, and we know that many of you are concerned about how changes to the College's operations may affect your earnings. The College is currently investigating ways to address these financial concerns, and will share more information as soon as it is available
My off-campus Federal Work Study job is suspended. What are my options?
To limit the risk of community spread, the College suspended the off-campus Federal Work Study program and notified students in the program of the suspension on March 10. Students should email firstname.lastname@example.org if they have concerns about their timesheets reflecting work completed to date.
How do I enter my time? [update]
Students or supervisors who are having trouble entering hours on TimesheetX should contact email@example.com.
How will I get my check? [updated]
Students who have been working this spring may access ADP to set up direct deposit or update their mailing address in order to receive wages from this past pay period. Any questions related to paychecks, payrolls, I9s/W4s, or related issues can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are student wages eligible for unemployment benefits? [updated]
Student wages are not typically considered eligible for unemployment benefits. However, an individual may still apply for unemployment benefits in the state where they worked. Decisions about unemployment benefits are determined by the state; the College will respond to all unemployment inquiries received from the state. Note that it is our understanding that due to the current COVID-19 health crisis, eligibility criteria for unemployment benefits could change.
What are Department of Education requirements for student wage pay for unworked hours? [update]
The Department of Education has clarified that institutions may choose to provide student wage pay for unworked hours, but this is not a legal requirement. The vast majority of schools have determined not to pay out unworked time in an effort to retain limited work-study budgets for students needing continued work. Bennington is following regional and national norms on this question.
Student Housing, Departure and Dining Services Questions
Is the College sending students home?
Yes. Now that the College has transitioned to remote teaching and learning, we are asking students to leave campus housing. Students for whom leaving campus would be a significant hardship or impossibility should identify themselves using this form.
What if I cannot or would prefer not to go home?
We ask those students for whom leaving campus would be a significant hardship or impossibility to identify themselves using this form by Sunday, March 15. The form will be reviewed by the Dean of Students, the Dean of Studies, and the Acting Dean of the College, who will consult with others (including International Student Services staff, FLoW advisor, Financial Aid staff), as needed to receive permission to remain.
Requests can be made for:
- An extension of time to prepare and make travel arrangements
- Permission to remain on campus for the rest of the Spring term
We know that Bennington feels like home to many students and remaining on campus is something they would prefer. We ask that students consider the risks to the larger Bennington College community -- especially those staff and faculty in high-risk categories -- and the recommendations of our local health officials that support the need to implement social distancing. Our tight-knit house communities are not built to promote social distancing and we will need to reduce the density in housing in order to comply with best practice recommendations.
Why can’t all students remain in campus housing when the College shifts to remote teaching and learning?
We must limit the number of students who can remain on campus to ensure we can responsibly support the level of care necessary for all remaining students in the event that COVID-19 reaches and spreads on campus. In most cases, returning home is the safest option for students.
The factors we must consider are:
- the number of patients Dr. Randy can safely care for and monitor;
- the amount space we will need for students in isolation while waiting for COVID-19 test results;
- the amount space we will need for students who have confirmed COVID-19 cases;
- the amount of space we will need to reduce the densely populated houses to promote the level of social distancing that is needed to slow or stop the spread of this virus; and
- the capacity of our local hospital.
Will we be able to store belongings in our rooms?
Due to the need to ask students to leave campus housing quickly for this unprecedented public health crisis, we are arranging storage options for personal belongings of students who need them. All items to be placed in storage must be in plastic bins with lids and labeled with students’ full name. No food items may be stored. A limited number of plastic bins are available from Student Life which can be picked up between 9:00 am - 5:00 pm Monday-Friday.
Lower Third Street (Fels, Noyes & Sawtell)
Students in Fels, Noyes and Sawtell can store items in their house basement. Items should be in plastic bins with lids and labeled with first and last name.
Second Street (Booth, Bingham, Kilpatrick, Leigh, McCullough & Welling)
Students on 2nd Street (Booth, Bingham, Kilpatrick, Leigh, McCullough and Welling) can store items in the Bingham House basement. Items should be in plastic bins with lids and labeled with first and last name.
All students living in the Welling Townhouse can store items in the Welling Townhouse basement. Items should be in plastic bins with lids and labeled with first and last name.
All students living in Paran Creek can store items in the Study Rooms. We will work to fill one study room at a time. Items should be in plastic bins with lids and labeled with first and last name.
All Other Houses (Canfield, Dewey, Franklin, Longmeadow, Merck, Paris-Borden, Perkins, Shingle, Stokes, Swan, Woolley)
All other students who need storage will be asked to bring plastic bins/totes to the Student Center for temporary storage which will be moved to a permanent location as soon as possible.
Will there be transportation to Albany Airport and Albany-Rensselaer train station?
Yes. If you are in need of transportation to Albany International Airport and Albany-Rensselaer Train Station, please contact Student Life. Students will not be assessed a fee for transportation.
Will the dining hall be open?
Yes, the dining hall will still be open.
Is it safe to eat in the dining hall if I am still on Campus?
In our continued effort to elevate safety and sanitary conditions in dining services, several modifications to dining are in process, with most taking full effect on Monday (3/16). As always, please don't hesitate to contact email@example.com should you have any questions during this time and we thank you for your ongoing patience and cooperation.
We have installed magnetic stripe card readers at both kiosks to eliminate the exchange of ID cards and instead allow self-swipe access. The kiosk at the front entrance is equipped with an accessible card reader and please note that by next Monday, will be the only point of entrance into the dining hall.
Roz’s Cafe and the Student Kitchen will close on Monday (3/16) so that all staff are able to assist with additional safety measures. These measures include transitioning from self-service dining (where you serve yourself) to plated service with single use compostable dishware. This experience will be similar to what you see in most cafeterias. You’ll notice that cereals, fruits, soups, and desserts will be behind the salad bar and that salads will be menu’ed. Staff will assist you in obtaining beverages including milk for cereals. As all food will be served on disposable dishware, you are welcome to eat in the dining hall or take your food to go. That said, please do not bring your own mugs, water bottles, or dishware into the dining hall until further notice.
Can I leave my car on campus? [updated]
Yes. Students who need to leave their cars should be in touch with Campus Safety for details.
Faculty and Staff Questions
How will work change for staff and faculty?
The College is continuing to operate. The work of educating our students and caring for those who remain on campus will continue without interruption at this time and staff and faculty will continue to work. The shift to remote instruction is a measure we are taking for the health and safety of our entire community. Having fewer students on campus not only limits the risks for the students who will need to remain, but for all of us, in allowing us to practice recommended social distancing. Faculty and staff are also asked to practice preventative measures to remain healthy and reduce the spread of viruses.
Offices and buildings remain open to faculty and staff. At present, we do not anticipate a change in staff operations (such as a shift to remote/alternate work arrangements). However, we will continue to evaluate the situation.
Faculty will deliver remote instruction from the location from which they can do it best, whether it be their campus offices or another location.
If you have questions, please contact your supervisor or Human Resources (for staff) or John Bullock (for faculty) for guidance..
What if staff need additional sick time?
We want our staff to stay healthy and safe in this public health crisis. To encourage employees to stay home when sick, the College has temporarily altered its sick time policies in order to allow employees (in most cases) to continue to be paid while out of work. Employees will be allowed to maintain a negative sick time balance and/or, where desired, the use of accrued vacation time to cover sick absences. Staff should continue to report their absences through ADP; please ensure absences are submitted as soon as possible. Employees who are absent due to symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19 will be required to present a note from a doctor prior to returning. Any employee who is concerned about financial hardship should contact Human Resources.
Can I forward my office phone to my cell phone?
Health and Wellness questions
What steps is the College taking to prevent or slow the spread of COVID-19?
In light of rapidly changing circumstances driven by the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), we have made the very difficult decision to transition all coursework to remote instruction for the remainder of the term, beginning Monday, March 30th. This measure was guided by our unwavering commitment to the health and safety of this community, and the growing need to take extraordinary preventative measures to assist in this unprecedented public health crisis––and weighed heavily against the major disruption we know this change will bring.
Additionally, our housekeeping staff have been trained in the cleaning protocols and products recommended by the CDC for preventing the spread of COVID-19. These consist of a routine disinfection of surfaces utilizing approved products, which are consistent with our normal cleaning products. Housekeeping staff are increasing sanitation for high-touch areas, including countertops, stair handrails, doorknobs, and computer labs.
We have instituted new practices and/or self-swiping readers for ID cards at the dining hall, Rec Barn, and Crossett Library.
The Usdan Gallery and Crossett Library are closed to the public.
How do I get tested for COVID-19?
Testing continues to be available only at Southern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC), but it is now possible to get testing in “drive through” fashion. It must be ordered by a physician in consultation with the Vermont Department of Health. If students have symptoms and questions, they should reach out to Health Services on campus. If they meet the requirements for testing, they will be referred to SVMC. Health Services has seen an increase in people coming in with symptoms they may not normally come in with--which is good. We would rather have people calling to talk if they are concerned as well.
How much does the test cost? What if local providers aren’t in-network for my insurance?
The State of Vermont is not charging for the test. You will not incur Emergency Department charges.
Is the Bennington College Health Service in possession of test kits for COVID-19?
No, this is not a test that our Health Center is able to order. Currently testing is available at SVMC. As the availability of testing expands in the near future, this may change.
What about students who are ill from the flu?
If you feel ill, please practice social distancing and do not attend class. Be in touch with Health Services if you have any questions or concerns. Influenza symptoms unfortunately overlap significantly with COVID-19, so if you have fever, cough, or shortness of breath, you should consult a healthcare provider. You may benefit from antiviral medicines if taken within 48 hours of symptom onset. It is always recommended that you be immunized against influenza (flu can be severe and lead to death); it also reduces confusion in the current environment and frees up resources to deal with COVID-19. If you haven’t already had a flu shot this season, you should get one as soon as possible. We are not able to provide them on campus, but they are still available at local pharmacies.
Will Psychological Services provide counseling remotely to students when they leave campus?
Psychological Services will continue to be open and operate on their spring term schedule. Students should talk with their and their on-campus therapist about options for continued care when they leave campus. Depending on the location of the student, continued individual therapy may be available or a referral to a student’s local community providers can be made.